Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Is it even possible to find or know God?

This is from J.M. Boice's Foundations of the Christian Faith in which he quotes Os Guiness' The Dust of Death:

"In The Dust of Death Os Guiness makes this point by describing a comedy skit performed by the German comedian Karl Vallentin. In this routine the comic comes onto a stage illuminated only by one small circle of light. He paces around and around this circle with a worried face. He is searching for something. After a while a policeman joins him and asks what he has lost. 'I've lost the keys to my house,' Vallentin answers. The policeman joins the hunt, but the search eventually appears useless.

'Are you sure you lost it here?' asks the policeman.

'Oh no!' says Vallentin, pointing to a dark corner. 'It was over there.'

'Then why are you looking here?'

'There's no light over there,' answers the comic.



If there is no God or if there is a God but the failure to know him is God's fault, then the search for knowledge is like the search of the German comedian. Where the search should be made, there is no light; and where there is light there is no point in searching. But is this the case? The Bible declares that the problem is not God's but ours... God can take, and actually has taken, steps to reveal himself to us, thereby providing us with the missing key to knowledge."

Monday, February 12, 2018

Top 10 Ways To Fail As A Team Leader

I found this list which I created 10 years ago today. I still agree. These are all bad ideas.


1) Fill your team with people just like you.

2) Ask someone to do a specific job, and then do it yourself.

3) Don't trust anyone.

4) Look out for #1.

5) Exercise high control.

6) Make sure all ideas originate with you (or at least that people think they do).

7) Foster an atmosphere of paranoia.

8) Make sure nobody appears smarter than you.

9) Have a closed-door policy.

10) Conserve affirmation.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Bible Is An Autobiography, And It's Not About You

The central character of the Bible is God.

This is very important.

Often when reading the Bible we are wondering what it has to say about us, about our lives, about what we need to do, about what is in store for us, yada, yada, yada... That's not what it's about. It's about God.

It begins with God:

In the beginning God created...

It ends with God:

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus...

The middle is about him too.


The entire Bible is all about God.

Why make such a big deal about this? Because understanding Genesis 1 is impossible without a proper understanding of the Bible's main point. Genesis was not written to teach us about the scientific origin of the universe (that is not to say it is not completely accurate and trustworthy in any "scientific" assertions it makes). Genesis was written to teach us about God. Thus, when I read Genesis 1, the primary reason I must read it is to learn about God. If I learn something about origins... bonus!

Genesis opens:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light"...

Here's a simple question, "Was there light before God spoke it?"
and one perhaps a little less obvious, "Was there a heavens and earth before God created it?"
and one a little tougher, "Was there anything before God created?"

The answers would be: "no", "no", "there was God".

This is our starting point. Without God, nothing exists. Apart from God, nothing exists. Everything that does exist is completely and totally dependent on God. Paul restated this concept in Colossians 1:
For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Dependency is not a virtue in our culture. 

Adult diapers are named "depends". We provide a tax break for those who are "burdened" by dependents. We consider adults to be those who are dependent on no one but themselves... isn't that the "American Dream"?

An unwillingness to acknowledge my dependence on God is in essence elevating the creation above the creator. This is nothing new. Eve chose not to depend on God's Word (she ate the fruit). Abraham wasn't willing to depend on God's promises (he has a child with Hagaar). The Israelites made a regular habit of not depending on God (read Judges). The disciples struggled to depend on Jesus' provision (feeding of the 5000). Paul pointed out that this unwillingness to assume the proper position of "creation" is at the heart of man's rebellion against God:
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-- who is forever praised.

And now the big question for us. Are we willing to be dependent?

When Jesus prayed, "Give us this day our daily bread", He was really saying, "I am relying on you to keep me alive." We have no idea what this prayer really means. Our affluence and resources have made it possible for us to be completely self-reliant in the material realm. As a result, we have become somewhat self-reliant in the spiritual realm as well.

Rather than our sustainer and provider, God has become our vending machine. We turn to Him when we want something; but when we really need something, we tend to try to take care of that ourselves. Like the rich fool in Luke 12, we stock-pile retirement funds, investments, and CASH and like the rich fool we say, "I have plenty of good things laid up for many years."(by the way, check out the question Jesus was asked which prompted him to tell that story...) All the while, I give God a passing consideration once, twice, or maybe three times a week... This is hardly a dependent relationship.

It comes to this. I think the reason we don't really know God and struggle to really "abide in Christ" is because we are not ready to be completely dependent on Him. It's a frightening proposition to give away the responsibility for my life. But ultimately, if God is the creator, and if I am the creation I am dependent on Him.... I just need to acknowledge it.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

If I don't let myself get stretched, eventually I'll get broken

I've noticed something as I get older.

When I run on the treadmill, I'm sore the next day...unless I stretch really well. In the past, I could play a full 90 minutes of soccer plus overtime in the snow and just walk off the field afterward... no soreness the next day.

Sadly, those days are over. Now, if i don't stretch regularly, I'll likely pull something when I try to really exercise.

I think the same is true of us mentally/philosophically/spiritually. As I get older (and I notice this in others also believe it or not), I sense a tendency toward being brittle in what I believe, the practices I deem acceptable, and my perceptions of what is truth. I'm more inclined to quickly dismiss new ideas, afraid of them, because they may stretch me too far and hurt me.


However, if I'm regularly stretching myself (by reading/considering/dialoguing/listening to ideas/books/people i don't necessarily agree with), I find it much easier to engage the more difficult issues that come down the pike. Perhaps this is one reason the Bible encourages us so often to be listeners. Listening stretches us and keeps us limber.

If I want to remain flexible and avoid becoming an old curmudgeon (I'm well on my way), I must find voices with whom I disagree and then listen to them. I'm not necessarily listening so I can change. I'm absolutely not listening so I can argue. I'm listening simply to understand, to see their point of view, to add their perspective to my own.

You can listen to podcasts, sermons, audio books. You can listen by reading articles, blog posts, books and even your twitter feed (do you only follow people who are exactly like you?). You can listen by inviting someone to coffee and then... listening to them.

Flexibility keeps us from breaking when the stress of life becomes overwhelming. Work on your flexibility today by listening to a new voice.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Why Is Christianity Different Than Every Other Religion In The World?

Hebrews 9:26 says:
But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Three words in the middle of that verse define the distinction between Christianity and every other religion in the world.
ONCE FOR ALL.
Virtually every world religion shares one fundamental similarity. At the heart of the religion is instruction for achieving “eternal life”, or whatever else might be the ultimate goal of the religion (eg. Nirvana, Heaven, etc.). These instructions always tell you what you need to DO. I think this concept of religion resonates with most people.

Let me provide a few examples.
Buddhism is built on a process of holding to or believing four noble truths. The fourth of these noble truths instructs Buddhists to follow the eight-fold path, which is a list of eight activities designed to help the Buddhist gain liberation from attachment and suffering. Following the eight-fold path means doing the following:
  • Right View
  • Right Intention
  • Right Speech
  • Right Action
  • Right Livelihood
  • Right Effort
  • Right Mindfulness
  • Right Concentration
According to the Buddha, apart from doing these things, one cannot hope to rid himself or herself of attachment or suffering, and has no hope of reaching nirvana.
Islam is a religion which many consider in the same family as Christianity. Muslims find their roots in Abraham’s family tree (albeit their branch is Ishmael, not Jacob). Muslims are monotheistic, a trait they share with Judaism and Christianity (and maybe some “Christian-like” cult groups).
The core of the Islamic ethic is rooted in the Five Pillars of Islam. These five activities are the core of the Muslim’s hope to one day find their way into the heaven of Allah:
  • The shahada – a confession that there is no God but Allah and Muhammed is his prophet
  • Ritual prayer, five times a day
  • The giving of alms to aid the poor and further the advance of Islam around the world
  • Fasting during the month of Ramadan
  • A pilgrimage to Mecca (those who are physically unable or cannot afford a pilgrimage are exempted)
(I’ve listed here the Sunni Muslim pillars. Other branches of Islam have slightly different but essentially similar pillars)
As with the Buddhist, performing these duties is essential for the Muslim if he hopes for a “good ending” in the after-life.
Most people assume (understandably so, due to the obvious emphasis of nearly every world religion) that our destiny in the afterlife is directly tied to what we DO in this life. Many people even assume that this is the perspective of Christianity, that our adherence to the rules in the Bible affects our ability to make it into heaven.
This is the misunderstanding which Hebrews 9:26 corrects.
First, let me point out what some might view as the ethical foundation of Christianity. Many people would view the eight-fold path and the five pillars as parallel lists to the ten commandments of Judaism and Christianity, or the three commandments of Jesus in the new testament (Love God, Love your neighbor, Love one another). However, the Bible is CRYSTAL CLEAR that someone who adheres to the ten commandments and/or the three commandments all their life will NOT earn their way into heaven.
The message of Christianity is that no to-do list of good deeds will ever be sufficient to eradicate the sin that separates us from God (if this post wasn’t getting too long already, I’d discuss how our first three years of life and college put us so far behind on the good deed-bad deed ledger that we can never hope to catch up).
Just a reminder:
But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
If you’ll notice in this verse, Jesus does ALL the work. Nothing is left to us. While other Bible verses explicitly discuss our weaknesses, this verse clearly implies our inability to be right with God on our own.
Instead, we rely on the fact that Jesus has already accomplished the necessary work to make us right with God. We only need to rely on His work on our behalf. 
His sacrifice was ONCE. It requires no on-going work on our part, it requires no repetition, it requires nothing in the future. It was a one-time historical event that eradicated the penalty of sin for all who believe. 
His sacrifice was for ALL. We can understand this to mean that his sacrifice was good for all people of all races, tribes, creeds, etc. We can also understand this to mean that his sacrifice was good for all time, it left nothing undone that needed to be done.
According to the Bible (Hebrews 9:26 particularly), my eternal destiny is completely dependent on ONE past historical event. My ability or inability to follow a list of rules or an ethical code has no impact on my standing with God. phew!
It boils down to this:
Religions require an ongoing process of deeds as the only way to be purified from wrongdoing.
Christianity recognizes one righteous act by God was sufficient to put away sin.
How do you respond to this truth?
  • For some, this brings great relief as they willingly place their reliance in Christ’s work
  • For some, this brings confusion as it conflicts with life-long deeply held notions about religion, God, and Christianity
  • For some, this brings frustration as they still cling to the idea that they are good enough on their own to be okay with God and therefore they don’t need someone else
  • For some, this causes laughter as they simply cannot conceive of such a simple salvation
How do you respond?